Saturday, January 8, 2011

Homing in on small businesses

TAILOR Siti Abdul Ghani, 55, has opened two shops in the past 20 years, only to see them fold shortly after because they could not turn in a profit.

Disheartened by the failures, the mother of three nearly gave up on her dream of running a tailoring business, but her husband urged her to sign up for the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) Micro Business Programme.

The $100 course helps entrepreneurs from needy backgrounds pick up skills needed to set up a home business in areas such as health, beauty, sewing, food and catering, and wedding crafts and accessories.

Madam Siti learnt to draft a business plan based on her vision - to develop a successful tailoring business for clients with big budgets, and set up a dressmaking school. She also met some consultants from the Enterprise Development Centre of the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry to work on her business idea.

The plan, plus her previous years of experience, made her one of four graduates to be given $1,000 in seed money from AMP last month to launch a micro business in their respective skills.

'I met the consultants and they told me I should focus on a niche clientele,' said Madam Siti. 'So I decided to target high-end customers who make big orders or want more elaborate designs.'

She also bought a new sewing machine with the seed money, which enables her to work on a wide range of fabrics, such as lace and brocades for Malay weddings and celebrations.

Since she relaunched her tailoring business, Stitch House, the tailor has set up a Facebook account and has received more than a dozen orders last month from regular clients as well as new ones.

Also getting a leg up is Ms Tuty Alawiyah Isnin, 29, who received seed money to run a cake decorating business from home.

The inventory officer, who has been her family's breadwinner since her father was retrenched in 2004, is currently operating T'haracakes part time. But she plans to immerse herself fully in the micro business when she is more financially stable.

'Before I took this course, I never realised that social media could be used to promote my business,' she said.

The Micro Business Programme was introduced in 2005 and has helped 313 people from disadvantaged backgrounds develop entrepreneurial skills as well as technical skills in IT. Outstanding participants are given the $1,000 grant and must submit a monthly report on the progress of their business for six months.

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